“In general, poetry has the potential to change society. I refuse to ask any less of it.”—Josh Cook, “The Problem With American Poetry,” published on Bookslut
“the impossibility of these questions does nothing to diminish my love of poetry. It might be the source. Too many poets and poetry readers hide from this impossibility, assuming those succinct images of daily life, daily emotions, and daily nature told in daily language are fundamental. That assumption, though, is supported by avoidance; that crystal clear image is only crystal clear if you don’t look at it too hard.”—Josh Cook reviews Balloon Pop Outlaw Black By Patricia Lockwood.
“For me, reading Amsterdam Stories was like watching Casablanca. Much of Casablanca has become cliché. The famous lines are quoted so often, and the famous scenes are such a part of our culture, we’ve seen the movie before we’ve actually seen it. And yet, even though we’ve heard them a hundred times, even though we know they’re coming, the famous lines are still powerful. They are surrounded by such inherent and integral beauty, that what should make us roll our eyes, takes our breath away. In Casablanca we hear “a hill of beans” and “here’s looking at you, kid.” In Amsterdam Stories we read “And I puff on my pipe in all humility, and feel like God himself, who is infinity itself. I sit there aimlessly. God’s aim is aimlessness. But to keep this awareness always is granted to no man.”—Josh Cook, “The Crushing Beauty of Nescio’s Amsterdam Stories”
“But even as he glorifies war, he does not sanitize it. “He sets the grim package down on the counter the way a merchant lays down a bolt of fabric to be measured by the yard./ These are the remains of Alfredo Barbieri from the Ljubljana mission.” (p. 66) “One barrage of fire had massacred our men./ The bloody pile was far away but seemed to be approaching with a slithering of entrails.” (p.256) He was wounded. His friends and comrades killed. He mourned the fallen with a passion approaching mania. But not only did he glorify war in writing, he begged to fight, and used his fame and influence to secure permission to fly on bombing missions even after his afflicted eye was amputated.”—Josh Cook reviews Notturno by Gabriele D’Annunzio.
Amsterdam Stories in The Millions
Amsterdam Stories easily merged with my own canon, like a flood born stream joining the river. I’ve mentioned ‘For Esmé – with Love and Squalor,’ but Nescio also reminded me of ‘The Hunger Artist,’ ‘White Nights,’ and the last few pages of The Great Gatsby. Stories like epic landscape paintings. Stories like a quiet chat on a river bank with a confidant. Stories like the foggy joyous hangover after a long night of tobacco-infused, coffee-fueled poetry. Beautiful stories. Love poems to life. Grönloh [Nescio’s real name] did not live the life of an artist, but Nescio has written one of the great apologies for art. We all struggle through the challenges of life; all the good mothers and fathers, all the diligent businessmen, all the fastidious bureaucrats, all the revolutionaries, all the mainstream politicians, all the over-read students, all the exhausted laborers, all of us. We rely on artists to remind us why that struggle is worth it.
— the last paragraph from a review of Nescio’s Amsterdam Stories in The Millions by Josh Cook. To read the rest of the review go here. This is the first English publication of Nescio’s work, translated by Damion Searls and with an introduction by Joseph O’Neill.